Original Paper

Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 5, pp 975-985

First online:

Is the Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) a reef fish or a pelagic fish? The phylogeographic perspective

  • Toby S. Daly-EngelAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Hawaii at MānoaUniversity of Arizona Email author 
  • , John E. RandallAffiliated withBishop Museum
  • , Brian W. BowenAffiliated withHawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii

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Abstract

Current taxonomy indicates a single global species of the Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) despite differences in color and behavior between Atlantic and Pacific forms. To investigate these differences and qualify the dispersal characteristics of this unique coastal–pelagic teleost (bony fish), we conducted a global phylogeographic survey of 246 specimens from thirteen sampling locations using a 629-base pair fragment of mtDNA cytochrome b. Data indicate high overall gene flow in the Indo-Pacific over large distances (>16,500 km) bridging several biogeographic barriers. The West Atlantic population contains an mtDNA lineage that is divergent from the Indo-Pacific (d = 1.9%), while the East Atlantic (N = 23) has two mutations (d = 0.6%) apart from the Indo-Pacific. While we cannot rule out distinct evolutionary partitions among ocean basins based on behavior, coloration, and near-monophyly between Atlantic and Indo-Pacific subpopulations, more investigation is required before taxonomic status is revised. Overall, the pattern of high global dispersal and connectivity in S. barracuda more closely resembles those reported for large oceanic predators than reef-associated teleosts.